How to Establish a Stockpile
Are you jealous that your friend has 2 years worth of toilet paper stocked in their linen closet? Have you ever gotten out of bed in the morning and dragged your hungry self to the kitchen only to find your cereal box was emptied by your husband while you lay sleeping? Well if you've experienced either of these issues you might want to consider establishing your own stockpile. Stockpiles can be small or large depending on the needs of your family. Just to be clear, when I say the term "stockpile" I'm not referring to taking a trip to your local warehouse club for gigantic boxes of stuff; I'm referring to purchasing large quantities of stuff to be used at a later date by your family for very little out of pocket expense. Stockpiling is often accomplished by taking advantage of the best deals around. Stockpilers purchase things when the cost is at the absolute low after combining manufacturer ("mfg") coupons (sometimes double or triple the amount), store coupons, and in-store sales. Often stockpilers can get the cost so low that it's free or nearly free.
If you're considering a stockpile, you'll need an area in your home dedicated to storing your stockpile. This may not be a huge issue at the beginning, however as your stockpile grows you'll realize that your space seems to be shrinking. Some areas where a stockpile might be kept include closets, extra bedrooms, basement, garage, under the bed storage boxes, large freezer, or any combination of the above.
After you've established a workable storage area in your home for your stockpile, you'll need to determine what types of items your family will use. While paper and cleaning products are obvious, food products with expiration dates can be a bit more difficult. It may be easy to stockpile 20 boxes of cheerios, but will your family use them all before the expiration date on the box? When stockpiling food, take into consideration your family's eating habits and expiration dates on the products. I know my family eats oatmeal more for breakfast in the winter months than dry cereal. Knowing this little piece of information helps me recognize that I need to start stocking up on cereal in February/March instead of later in the year. Some stockpilers don't get too concerned with this issue. They monitor their inventory and if a date is coming near they'll simply donate the food to homeless shelters or family and friends who can use the product before the expiration date. Stockpilers are generally very generous and love to spread the wealth.
Now that you've got your space and have determined what items you need to stockpile you should start reading through store ads. Some store ads will come out on Sunday in your local newspaper (Target, Walgreens, CVS). Your local grocery stores may have different sale dates so you'll need to check with your store. My grocery stores run their sales from Wednesday to the following Tuesday which results in me receiving their ad by Tuesday for sales starting on Wednesday. Almost all stores have webpages which post their ads for easy access. As you're browsing through your ads pay close attention to offers such as double coupons, triple coupons, and cash back when you buy certain products. These are the key for establishing a great stockpile for very little out of pocket cost.
Stores are popular for doubling coupons up to a certain dollar amount (usually up to $.99). This means that if you're purchasing a box of cereal for $2.99 and you have a mfg coupon for $.75 off that particular brand of cereal the store will double that $.75 coupon and give you $1.50 off of your $2.99 box of cereal. Great right? Well it gets even better when stores offer triple coupons. This means your $.75 coupon would be tripled, thus giving you $2.25 off of your $2.99 box of cereal.
Stores are also known for offering cash back on your next purchase when you buy certain products. These are generally known as catalinas or if you're shopping at CVS they're known as extra care bucks ("ecb"). An example would be "Receive $5 back on your next shopping order when you buy $10 worth of General Mills products". When you combine these deals with mfg coupons your savings just increase. For example, you purchase 4 boxes of cereal at $2.50 each bringing your total to $10. You have mfg coupons for $1/each box. $10-$4 mfg coupons = $6 out of pocket less the $5 catalina/ecb that will spit out at the end of your transaction and essentially you've just paid $.25 for each box of cereal. If you do this deal several times you're creating a great cereal stockpile. Some stores will allow you to use the same catalina to pay when you're doing the same deal over and over.
You can also take advantage of combining your store coupons with mfg coupons if your store offers such coupons. A great example is Target. Target has coupons on their website. You can combine their store coupons with mfg coupons to get an incredible deal. You can also take advantage of their store sales combined with their store coupons and mfg coupons and watch your stockpile grow.
One of the most important factors to creating a stockpile that your family will benefit from for an extended period of time is having multiple mfg coupons. Depending on the size of your family, this could mean 5 or 30 of the same coupon. If you are using a $.75 off mfg coupon that results in cereal costing your family $.25 per box and your family eats a large quantity of cereal, you might want a lot of those coupons. There are several ways to increase your coupon supply.
The most obvious place to get extra coupon inserts is in the Sunday paper. You can purchase extra papers through your newspaper delivery company. You can also purchase extra papers at your local stores (sometimes discounted on Monday). If you're super thrifty you can get extra inserts at no cost to you. If you ask your paper delivery person they may give you extra inserts if they don't have to return them to the company. You can also ask your local stores what they do with extra papers; some throw them away and are happy to give you the inserts for free. Don't forget your friends and family. If they do not use coupons (yep, there are still some that exist) they would probably be happy to give you their inserts. If they do use coupons offer to swap ones that they don't use for ones that they do use. You can also start a coupon swap box at your work, church, daycare, library, really anywhere there might be a large number of people. If you're really brave you can venture into the world of dumpster diving (yes we do go that far). Find your local recycle dumpsters and start scavaging through to see what you can find. You might have better luck earlier in the week when Sunday papers are tossed. You might be surprised to know that many dumpster divers have been very successful at finding hundreds of inserts for free.
The most popular online auction site also has coupons. If a coupon exists, you can bet you'll find it on eBay. To clarify, you're not paying for the actual coupons, you're paying for the seller's time to clip and send the coupons to you. While you may find the coupons you need on eBay, some can cost you. It's best to look for eBay coupon auctions with the "buy it now" option. These are usually a pretty fair cost and allows you to get your coupons quicker and plan your shopping trip accordingly.
There are several online coupon sources. Some offer printable coupons that you can print off the internet. Some offer actual insert coupons for a small handling fee. Check with your store to find out if they accept printable internet coupons, as some refuse to accept internet printed coupons because of the possibility of fraud. You can check several online coupon sources on AFC's home page.
You need to remember when you're creating a stockpile you may walk out of a store with 20 boxes of cereal and nothing else, but take into consideration how long those boxes will last your family. In addition to the needs of your family, think about organizations that can benefit from your stockpiling abilities. If a box of cereal costs you little or nothing out of pocket, consider picking up a few extra boxes for your favorite charity. While it's great to know you have 20 boxes of cereal in your pantry for your family to choose from at breakfast time; it's much more rewarding to know that by donating just one box of cereal to a family in need you've given them breakfast at a time in their life when they would otherwise go without. Pay it forward.
Your routine weekly shopping trips to one store may gradually turn into daily shopping trips to multiple stores to take advantage of different deals. Don't be alarmed, this is the normal routine of a serious stockpiler. Happy stockpiling.
©2008-2009 Joakim Nygård
Includes images from the Silk Icon set by Mark James